In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,
the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss,
while a mighty wind swept over the waters.
Today's first reading is also the first reading of Easter Vigil. The Vigil recaps the history of God's mercy, beginning with the Beginning and leading up to the Finale, Jesus' Resurrection. It is good to hear this reading during the less dramatic weekdays of Ordinary Time, and reflect on its beauty, majesty and authority.
Today's reading covers only the first four days of creation, as God creates the perfect setting for "man in our image, after our likeness." There can be little doubt about where this is going. The Divine Author teaches us that the human creature is, and must be, the crown jewel of Creation.
But the Author describes no urgency or impulsiveness in God's work. Everything will happen in its time. First, there must be light, and the light will be separated from the darkness. It must be brilliant and beautiful. James Weldon Johnson, in his book God's Trombones, captures some of the majesty of God's work in his poem, The Creation. (on Youtube)
The light is pleasing to God and pleasant to the human eye, though no human eye will see it just yet.
On the second day God created the dome of the sky. The ancients imagined it hard like crystal, a protective, secure dome above the mountains and clouds to contain and control chaos. Visionaries sometimes saw the dome split open and God sitting upon his Eternal Throne about the dome. You'll remember the shepherds who saw angels coming through cloven skies with peaceful wings unfurled.
If we have a different understanding of the sky today, we can be all the more amazed and grateful for its transcendent beauty. Our atmosphere, containing a biosphere barely seven miles thick, wraps the Earth and protects its living forms against the cruel hostility of "outer space."
On the third day God created vegetation. We have barely begun to appreciate its bewildering variety of forms. When I attended high school I was told there were two "kingdoms," flora and fauna. Now we understand there are at least five different life forms -- plus some archaebacteria -- and each plays an essential role in sustaining the others. Did you know that mushrooms (of the fungus kingdom) have microscopic roots that may extend hundreds of feet through the soil, connecting fields and forests and all the living things therein? What are we to make of God's creativity?
Finally, on the fourth day, God created the sun, moon and stars. Though the moon seems like little more than decoration for most of us, life would be unimaginably different -- if it existed at all -- without the tides.
Science has much to say about the universe and its origins, and many people think that "Science" differs from "The Bible;" but true science -- call it knowledge -- begins in wonder and Genesis teaches us that on page one.